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New graphic design major to attract prospective students

graphic design

Late Monday night, faculty senate approved a new graphic design major, a change that could increase student enrollment by as many as 50 students per year, according to Russ Bloem, vice president for enrollment.

For years, students had been graduating with interdisciplinary majors that are very similar to the new graphic design major, but formalizing the major will attract new students.

“In past years, there have been many students who have chosen not to come to Calvin because there was no design major,” said Jo-Ann P. VanReeuwyk, associate professor of art and art history.

“If half of these students were to apply to Calvin, and 20-25 percent of those would enroll, we would be looking at 45-50 potential new students per year,” wrote Bloem in a letter to raise support.

“Our counselors attend about 225 college fairs and make over 400 high school visits per year and they estimate that at least one (often more than one) person will ask ‘Do you have a graphic arts/design major?’ at 7 out of 10 of these events,” Bloem wrote. “This would total to 450 or more inquiries in a season.”

Calvin is late in the game, having lost prospective students for years to competition schools such as Dordt College, Taylor University and Trinity Christian College, simply because of their graphic design majors.

“Trinity Christian College with only 1,369 students has more graphic design courses to offer than Calvin does with a student body of 4,000,” said Frank Speyers, professor of art and art history.

This process was not simple, however. Since 1989, Speyers has pushed for the program’s approval, but the need for the major was not acknowledged until this year.

“Over the last 15 years, an average of 3.8 students graduated with a business/ graphic design [interdisciplinary] major. In 10 years that number grew to an average of 4.5 students, and in the past five years the number has grown to 5.2,” stated the report in the faculty senate agenda.

“They had a good proposal this year. It’s been an ongoing process, but this year there was a special need for it,” said Mark Williams, dean of arts, languages and education.

Amidst the campus-wide budget cuts, this addition will not set the budget back.

“No new staffing is required, nor will there be any shifts in assignments. This major does not represent an expansion of the college’s program offerings,” the faculty senate report stated.

The new major is being added to the art department, but the required courses extend into several departments.

“The major is a collaboration of visual arts, communication arts and sciences, computer science and business,” said VanReeuwyk. “It’s a wonderful compilation of several departments.”

“Because we’re a liberal arts college, students are shaped to think broadly and have a variety of disciplines to draw from,” said Speyers.

Of the required courses, only three are specific graphic design classes, each taught by Speyers.

“There are three levels to the major. Level one is the semantics — the visual parts of speech. Level two is the syntactic — how these parts of speech fit together. And level three is the pragmatics — students take on a real client,” said Speyers.

Williams pointed out that Grand Rapids shows to be the perfect city for this new major.

“Grand Rapids is becoming a regional center for designers,” said Williams, “so there’s a job market out there for students.”

“Design is a language, a visual problem solving,” Speyers said, “and because our society is driven by images, there is a great importance for students to develop these skills. Design is everywhere.”

About the Author

Leah Jonker

I’m Leah Jonker and I’m an on-call writer for the 2013-14 school year. I’m from Pinewood Springs, Colo., and I’m majoring in geography and writing. Living in the mountains, I’d like to say I’m a hardcore explorer, but the truth is, I’m a sugar addict who loves Skittles and frosting, and currently have an ice pack tied to my leg from this afternoon’s hike.

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